(Reuters) - Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said it would be a mistake for teams to boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over the Gulf state's alleged treatment of migrant workers building stadiums.
Britain's Guardian reported a month ago that at least 6,500 migrant workers – many working on World Cup projects - had died in Qatar since it won the right 10 years ago to stage the event, according to the newspaper's calculations from official records.
Players of Norway and Germany wore shirts before their World Cup qualifiers this week voicing concern over the conditions for migrant workers in Qatar and the Netherlands are also planning to protest.
On Thursday, a representative of the Qatari World Cup organisers said they had "always been transparent about the health and safety of workers", adding that since construction began in 2014, there had been three work-related fatalities and 35 non-work-related deaths.
Martinez, whose side reached the semi-finals at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, said teams cannot turn their backs on the tournament in the wake of protests.
"It would be a big mistake. It's time to face that situation and boycotting the World Cup wouldn't be the solution," Spaniard Martinez told CNN on Friday.
"At the moment, we all know the situation that the World Cup going to Qatar is a unique opportunity to bring the eyes of the world into any aspects that are not right in society.
"We know that there's been big issues, but we know as well that because of the World Cup, the Qatari government has already put things in place, and we follow all the human rights institutions.
"The message is very clear: Don't turn your back. Boycotting is the easy escape."
Martinez said the participation of all the teams that qualify was vital to make the tournament a success.
"And then... make sure change is there... not just Qatar, but the Middle East countries can benefit from having the eyes of the world into this World Cup and make sure that we follow what human rights institutions are advising to do," he said.
"But I don't think boycotting will be a good solution, it's almost turning your back to a problem."
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)